The previous articles about the sinking of HMS Prince of Wales in 1941 have been met with some interest which is pleasing. In case you missed them they are here and here.
A tentative start has been made on the book but only in the sense that I needed to settle on a format or device in order to do the story justice. What I mean by that is I did not wish to write a straightforward historical non-fiction book. It required a device to let my grandfather “tell his own story.” I have settled on such a ‘writer’s device’ but I’m keeping it under wraps for the time being. It is very much a work in progress (WIP).
Prince of Wales Research Progress Report
The need for such a report was prompted by a contact I made with a wonderful website called Paratrooper Pacific operated by a man called GP Cox. I initiated the contact following a suggestion from my Danish blogger friend Maria Holm who can be found at Health From One Heart to Another [see below for links].
For the information of Mr. Cox, I also reproduce a “conversation” I had with a British researcher. It is at the foot of this post.
It is a feature of such research for helpful types to suggest sites that can often duplicate research resources that I am already aware of. Of course, I am grateful for all suggestions but it makes life easier for all concerned if they know what I know.
Before I go the the summary of my research to date, allow me to pay special thanks to the following people who have taken an enormous amount of interest in my quest and assisted greatly:
- GP Cox of Pacific Paratrooper
- Maria Holm – Health From One Heart to Another
- Adam Lawrence – The Retrospective Reel
- Cousins in the UK – Pat McLynn, Joan Lee and Keith Boast
- Sister in the UK – Anne Hodder
- Cousin in the US – Robert Smyth
- Michael W. Pocock of Maritime Quest
- Helpful new friends at WW2Talk Forum
- Bob Dobson who has a catalog of old books on Accrington & Lancashire local history
- The Great War Forum
- The most helpful librarian I have ever met – John Simpson of the Lancashire Library Service
- Accrington Web Forum proving that Accrington probably has the friendliest people in the UK
Forgive me if I missed anyone off that list. All of you are special people.
I must also mention Michael and Sean Smyth, my cousin’s sons, who I gifted my grandfather’s medals and vellum paper Naval Record as I know they will look after them long after I have gone. Thank you.
My summary takes two forms. The first is the area I need most assistance with. The second is in the form of my notes. I hope to tidy them up some day 🙂 Therefore I apologize in advance for the present state of disorganization (you should have seen them earlier!).
My cousin Pat McLynn is doing the detective work on my grandfather’s wife, Agnes Bentley nee Hendry. I don’t use the word grandmother because I never knew her or met her. Pat is unable to find a death certificate for her in neither England nor Scotland. She was born and raised in the Glasgow area of Scotland.
As both a writer and a former detective, it is difficult for me to refrain from speculation about the lack of a death certificate. From the little I know about her, she did not have a good reputation and my father never mentioned her once to me. Clearly, something was amiss and I cannot help but think that there may be a serious ‘skeleton in the closet’ of the Bentley family history.
1941 – 1945 Aftermath of the Sinking
But more to the point, I do need help with this second aspect of my research and perhaps this post of mine in the WW2 Forum explains it best:
Thanks Tom. I did find that site and the photo. It’s impossible to make out faces on the photo unfortunately.
The thing I am having trouble with is how and when and in what circumstances did he join the company of the Lucia.
We know that the Prince of Wales was sunk on 10/12/41 and he joined the Lucia on the same date according to his naval record. That in itself seems remarkable as over 2000 survivors from the POW and Repulse were first taken to a hospital in Singapore. The critically injured stayed there and some captured by the Japanese at the fall of Singapore.
Some went to Penang to help out the Army there.
Quote “Detachments of Royal Naval personnel (mainly ex PRINCE OF WALES and REPULSE) were despatched to Penang by rail in order to assist in restoring communications (particularly ferries) and moral.” – Naval History.net
“ERINPURA sailed from Singapore for Colombo with 30 officers, 700 men ex PRINCE OF WALES and REPULSE, and some women and children evacuees, escorted by DURBAN, DRAGON, and VAMPIRE” – From <Royal Navy, China Station, December 1941 to March 1942, Admiral Layton’s Diary>
It appears, again according to his record, that he spent the rest of the war on board the Lucia. According to one crew member’s account I found, that ship never fired a gun or was fires at between 1942 – 1945. Just what my Granddad needed!
But it does appear remarkable that his record shows this swift transition (on the same day) from the Prince of Wales to the Lucia.
Of course, I appreciate I may never find the answer but I’m going to have a damn good try!
Many thanks for your help especially as it’s not your usual area of expertise.
Through the same forum I was advised to seek my grandfather’s “naval pay and victualling record.” I thought ‘here we go, more money needed to access British records.’ But I was in for a pleasant surprise as I discovered that these records are available at no cost under a Freedom of Information Act procedure. That link is to my publicly available request.
That is in stark contrast to the Admiralty records I obtained through the National Archive at Kew. Granddad Bentley’s records were available in 2 separate PDFs – about £9 for each one!
Accrington & Lancashire Early 1900s
Lancashire Telegraph Classroom Life early 1900s
Lancashire Telegraph Bygones/History
Lancashire Telegraph WW1 Workers Unite
1912 – Captain SCOTT reached the South Pole.
The trenches from which the Accrington Pals advanced on 1 July 1916
Amazon.com Book – Sober Men and True: Sailor Lives in the Royal Navy, 1900-1945 First Edition
Google Search “Life of a boy sailor”
Google Search “Life on the lower decks in the British Navy”
Naval Customs and Life
Customs and Life in the British Navy
Navalhistory.net Petty Officers and Ratings
Prince of Wales c. 1941 & Force Z
Bombing Birkenhead Prince of Wales in dock before Dec 1941
Note to self: This link below is not separated by pages
Scotland at War – British Navy on the Clyde
BBC WW2 “people’s war stories”
Google Search “Prince of Wales Greenock
http://slgray.tripod.com/ww2_ships.htm HMS Lucia
List of Ships
Now in Table as a word doc
Google search “HMS Lucia” 1941- 1945
What happened to survivors search
Google search “what happened to survivors of the Prince of Wales”
In reference to the P.O.W. the picture of captioned Prince of Wales seen burning is wrong. She is making smoke after being severely damaged. A shell passed through her bridge without exploding but hit the binnacle scattering metal parts which caused the damage. In reference to the men who returned ‘900 were packed into the Erinpura which sailed for Colombo on 21 December.” – Martin Middlebrook and Patrick Mahoney – Battleship – The Loss of the Prince of Wales and the Repulse. – Excellent book. My father who was returning to England from Durban was put in charge of some of the seaman boys off of the POW and recounted how some were still suffering from trauma as they in compartments below where water got in. God knows how they got out. Hope that this is some use.
From Maritime Quest
April 5th 1942
Forces “A” and “B” left Addu Atoll to endeavour to intercept the enemy forces in the Ceylon area
British SS HARPASSA, GANDARA, and DARDANUS attacked and sunk by enemy aircraft in the Bay of Bengal
|0048||Catalina (L) reported sighting one battleship and two cruisers in position 04-00N, 80-40E, course 290 degrees.|
|0200||Colombo and harbour attacked by enemy aircraft. HMS HECTOR bombed, set on fire and burnt out. HMS TENEDOS sunk. HMS LUCIA hit (see Part II, paragraph 5)|
April 25th 1942
HMS EREBUS escorted by HMS BALTA, left Trincomalee for Colombo. HMS BALTA was later relieved of escort duty by HMS SHOREHAM and returned to Trincomalee
HMS LUCIA, HMIS HINDUSTAN, and BDV BARLANE left Colombo for Bombay
In the event the losses were small. HMS HECTOR was hit, set on fire, and will probably be a total loss; HMS TENEDOS was hit and sunk but May be salvable; HMS LUCIA was hit forward by one bomb but was patched up locally and sailed for Bombay for permanent repairs.
- Colombo was raided by a force of about 70 carrier borne aircraft on the 5th April. Harbour installations received some damage. HMS TENEDOS was sunk, HMS HECTOR set on fire, and H.M.C. LUCIA damaged by a hit. The majority of the enemy ‘planes in this raid have been identified as Navy type 99 ship borne two seater dive bombers. This type appears to be a modified type of Navy type 97 two seater reconnaissance bomber. The armament consists of two fixed Vickers .303 with two Lewis .303 on wooden mountings. They carried one bomb rack for 50 kilo bombs under each wing.
Special characteristics are:
(i) Fixed undercarriage
(ii) Detachable wings for ship stowage
(iii) Split flaps with friction damped release
(iv) Metal fuselage and wings, with fabric covered rudder and wing tips.
(v) No protective armour or self sealing tanks.
(vi) All aircraft brought down burnt fiercely, suggesting high magnesium content of alloy.
Commander in Chief Eastern Fleet decided during the forenoon to proceed with PRINCE OF WALES, REPULSE, and available destroyers with the object of attacking enemy transports off Singora at dawn on 10th December. A full account of these operations has been given elsewhere. Air Commanding Officer, Far East, was consulted about fighter protection and at first thought this could be arranged; news of the losses in North Malaya later caused doubt to the thrown on this and at 2253GH/8, Commander in Chief, Eastern Fleet was informed by Chief of Staff that fighter protection could not be provided on 10th (i.e. fighter protection off Singora.)
PRINCE OF WALES, REPULSE, ELECTRA, EXPRESS, VAMPIRE, and TENEDOS sailed at 1700.
PANGKOR was sailed from Penang with stores and party for Port N (Nancowry)
United States of America gave instructions for aircraft and submarines to carry out unrestricted warfare.
Commander in Chief Asiatic Fleet stated he was stationing three large submarines off the Indo China coast north of Pulo Condore.
Between 1115 and 1315, Force Z was attacked a force of 5 Squadrons each of 9 Japanese Type 96 twin engine torpedo bombers, as a result of which both PRINCE OF WALES and REPULSE were sunk and Acting Admiral Sir Tom Phillips, K.C.B. lost his life.
The first report of this attack was received in the War Room at Singapore at 1200GH. Six Buffalos immediately took off from Kallang but did not arrived at the scene of action until 1300 when REPULSE had already sunk and PRINCE OF WALES was sinking.
ELECTRA, EXPRESS, and VAMPIRE picked up a total of 2189 survivors with whom they arrived at Singapore between 2300 and 0130.
The United States 57th Destroyer Division and STRONGHOLD were ordered to the scene of the action, and sailed at 1600, but the destroyers of Force Z reported, that no survivors had been left.
One Walrus aircraft from PRINCE OF WALES, flown off 35 miles northeast of Kuantan, arrived Singapore at 1500.
One Walrus aircraft from REPULSE was towed in the following day by STRONGHOLD having run out of fuel and come down near Sedili.
On assumed temporary command of East Fleet, Commander in Chief expressed his policy to Admiralty as follows.“On assuming command my Broad Policy to meet present situation is as follows.
- We are back in the period before relief. Our object must therefore be (a) Hold as much of Malay as possible to secure Singapore as a base for Eastern Fleet, (b) Keep trade moving, (c) Effect maximum damage by air and S/M on enemy.
- To effect this we required all possible reinforcements of submarines, minesweepers, destroyers in addition to whatever air reinforcements can be provided.
- Battleships should not come further than Colombo until accompanied by Cruisers destroyers and air
- I realise difficulty in meeting all demands but if Singapore is to be held, we must have necessary forces with which to do it.
Detachments of Royal Naval personnel (mainly ex PRINCE OF WALES and REPULSE) were despatched to Penang by rail in order to assist in restoring communications (particularly ferries) and moral.
ERINPURA was selected to take 700 Naval personnel ex PRINCE OF WALES and REPULSE to Colombo
DANAE sailed from Trincomalee for Singapore. She was ordered to bring all available steel helmets and gas masks for issue to survivors of PRINCE OF WALES and REPULSE, but could only get 140 helmets and 300 respirators.
ERINPURA sailed from Singapore for Colombo with 30 officers, 700 men ex PRINCE OF WALES and REPULSE, and some women and children evacuees, escorted by DURBAN, DRAGON, and VAMPIRE
Google search “stories survivors Prince of Wales”
Survivor captured by the Japanese
POW survivor story
Google search “stories survivors …”
Daily Telegraph “Britain at War”
http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/80020780 Imperial War Museum (IWM) Audio Lucia
The National Archive Survivor Story
And for the benefit of GP Cox, I also add this about a man in the UK who has helped me and is compiling a record in respect of the sinking of a Japanese ship off the coast of the Philippines. It was carrying Allied POWs. It is part of the record of a ‘conversation’ I had with him on the WW2 Talk Forum:
Welcome to the forum. I recently bought the book “Alarm Starboard!” by Geoffrey Brooke (1982) from the local Oxfam shop and have dipped into it. He was on the Prince of Wales from her commissioning.
My principal interest is in the last voyage of a Japanese ship, the Hofuku Maru, which was sunk following an air attack by US aircraft on 21st September 1944. British casualties were about 907 of which my uncle, Sgt. Clifford Cox, RAOC, was almost certainly one. on that date. Certainly, he did not survive the voyage. About 100 of the 907 died before the 21st September 1944. There was a minor war crimes trial concerning a Japanese man in charge of PoWs on the vessel. I transcribed the trial transcript and posted it to the “Hofuku Maru” thread on the WW2 site a long time ago.
I have done a huge amount of work trying to assemble details of all the British and Dutch men on the vessel but still have a few weeks work at Kew to complete a list.
I pointed out your post to my wife because she is active in transcribing Royal Navy and Merchant Navy records at the behest of the National Maritime Museum and The National Archives ( and Ancestry ) but she could not offer anything more about Master Bentley joining as a boy in 1916.
My father served in the RNVR on a corvette, HMS Mallow, as a Sick Bay Attendant, and on a Free French submarine, the Curie, as a Liaison Officer, mainly in the Mediterranean and the Aegean.
My point in writing is to say that if I hope to get the authorities to recognise that the wreck of the Hofuku Maru is a war grave. The approximate position is 80 miles north of Corregidor within swimming distance ( for a few men ) of the coast. A few managed to join up with guerillas. There is a “wreck site” website on the internet which shows a few maps.
I am retired, aged 66, and have not been abroad since 2005. I dabbled in the law, following an LlB from Leeds University, mainly as a local government officer dealing with building contracts, although I used to sit behind defence counsel in Leeds Crown Court in the 1970’s.
I have also spent a lot of time looking at investigations and trials of minor war criminals in the Far East, largely to find the history of individual witnesses rather than anything to do with international jurisprudence. “War crimes” and WW2 is quite a hot topic for academics, mainly women, in recent times.
If you have any random thoughts, since you are in the vicinity, I would welcome them.
First of all I thank you for passing on my query to your wife. That was kind and appreciated. My interest on his time as a “Boy” is really of an account of conditions at Devonport on initial training. I have found accounts with reference to Chatham and Portsmouth but not Devonport.
As for random thoughts – I need time to digest the ramifications. As a general observation based on my time in the Philippines and Thailand before that, there does not appear to be much interest about WW2 in general, and war crimes in particular. I may be wrong about that because it is only recently I have started to research my grandfather’s naval record.
However, the whole area is one of interest to me and I will give some thought to your project.
I wish you well in the quest to have the wreck of the Hofuku Maru designated as a war grave. I am aware, as no doubt you are, of the reports of the stripping down of the Prince of Wales for scrap by Malaysian criminals – very sad. If there is anything I can do to support your efforts to persuade the authorities to act in regard of the Hofuku Maru, then please ask.
I was still a police officer in the 70s but have fond memories of Leeds Crown Court as a barrister in the first decade of this century.
While composing this reply, I have decided to make some tentative inquiries/searches concentrated on the Philippines. So let me see if I find anything of note.
Thank you once again for the contact and the welcome “aboard.”
I just bought ‘Alarm Starboard’ too. Thanks for the recommendation. I found it on Amazon.com for $2 so a good deal although it will cost me three times again to ship it to the Philippines!
Thank you for your reply. I did visit the Z force website following your post about your grandfather and was very sorry to read that the wreck of the Prince of Wales was being plundered for scrap metal. I also looked at some of the other material. The piece about the cabinet papers taken from the SS Automedan is fascinating. There is a book in the National Archives library written by a Japanese man called “Mrs.Henderson’s Tea-Set” or something similar which is all about the subject from a different point of view. I photographed this ( Kew don’t mind. )
Quite what effect the loss of the documents really had is harder to ascertain. I have a book in my late father’s collection of naval books which says that Joint Services exercises at the Staff College in 1926 set a problem based on defending an invasion of Thailand and Malaya by the Japanese intent on reaching Singapore. I don’t think it says who won the war game.
The Philippines were in the jurisdiction of the United States for minor war crimes and there is a fair amount of material at NARA, the American Archives. A book called “Death On The Hellships” by Greg Michno ( pub. about 2002 ) has some material on the Hofuku Maru including references to affidavits I haven’t seen at Kew.
The US Senate were behind large releases of Nazi and Japanese documents from about 1999 and a couple of war crimes materials guides available as large pdf.s on the net give an indication as to their holdings. Actually finding material at NARA is rather hard, or so I am told by Lee ( PsyWar Org), who has been there.
Funnily enough the University of Marburg has put summaries of American war crimes trials on the net. A Japanese assistant professor from the University of Hawaii gave a lecture at Cambridge University last autumn, which I did not attend. She has used material from the war crimes trial files in WO 235 at Kew and published articles in Japanese about them. It could be that Germans and Japanese know more about the trials than English-speaking peoples. The University of Hong Kong paid Kew about £35,000 for digital copies of the trials held in Hong Kong. Summaries are available online but one has to have access to HK University computers to see the full digital copies.
My father trained at Devonport. I’ve got a book about WW2 Naval training. I’ve got about 250 books about the navy in the age of steam so a lot of WW1 stuff.
I paid £2.99 for my copy of “Alarm Starboard”. I think you will find your purchase worth the postage.
Your knowledge of investigating crime and courtroom advocacy would be very helpful in looking at the JAG’s card system which I photographed ( about 35,000 photos ) and cross-referenced by photograph number, witness to accused. Only about 10% cross-reference, but you can’t know until you do it ! The original statements have not been released, if they exist, which is doubtful. Allied witness statements are listed by codes for statement number, affidavit number, place, event etc. The card systems for European investigations are much easier to use, and far more investigation files are available at Kew.
Amongst the books my father collected is one I can’t find on Abebooks. Published by William Blackwood & Sons Ltd, 1944, ” One Year of Life: The Story of H.M.S. Prince of Wales” by Alan and Gordon Franklin ( Lieut. A.G.C. Franklin, R.N.V.R., and Paymaster Commander G. Franklin, O.B.E., R.N.. A few photographs: 95pp. He paid thirty pence for it.
Thanks very much for your assistance.
One survivor left a detailed account of his time with the guerillas which I photographed at Kew in about 2011 , so I will set to and transcribe that. He was Captain Gibson.
There is an old thread on this site ( started in 2009 ) which gives a list of the guerilla survivors and further information from two WW2 members, Steanotholus and Stevin. One mentions a book written in Dutch which I have not obtained. The thread is called: ” Japanese Hell Ships – POW Deaths.”
Please let me know if there is anything I can do in connection with your research.
Preliminary searches on Google reveal these links. They may be of some use particularly when there is a mention of Luzon as I believe it is off the coast of that province where the shipwreck lies and therefore the likely venue for survivors to engage with the local guerrillas.
List of American guerrillas in the Philippines – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Thanks for that.
I have now read the Franklin book about the Prince of Wales. The poor chap suffered from the attack by being close to an exploding bomb, which gave him headaches and “shell-shock”, although he says this probably saved his life. “Alarm Starboard” has more detail. I also have books about the “Atlantic Meeting” and sinking the Bismark relating to the ship.
The book in Dutch called ” De gele hel: krijgsgevangene der Jappen en guerillastrijder op de Philippijnen” by H Porte and Dick de Wilde is by a Hofuku Maru survivor who linked up with guerillas. I’ve just found there is a copy at the British Library.
Unfortunately, I don’t understand Dutch, but if research was easy, it wouldn’t be worthwhile !
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You’ve done an incredible job already, Steve. I hope my meager attempts will at least add to you finding out the true life of your grandfather.
[I thank you for mentioning my site as well.]
Thank you GP. I accept that as a real compliment coming from someone like yourself. I do believe in linking to fellow bloggers’ sites. It’s good manners! GP Cox’s site can be found at Pacific Paratrooper
As a longtime history buff, I discovered GP Cox early on in my blogging career and have been following his WW II posts ever since. I see you’ve also found his site to be a valuable resource.
History is not a burden on the memory but an illumination of the soul.
— Lord Acton
Not only a valuable resource but he is so helpful! Through his site I also found this which I think would interest you IHRA